The Tabernacle has been built. Everything has been set up and rests in its proper place. God now lives with his people.
Can we stop for a moment and remember where these people were when we started the book of Exodus?
They were slaves in a land that was not their own. Every single day they made bricks for their oppressors. Their children were slaughtered because of one man’s fear. They cried out for decades and by all their reckoning, no one ever heard.
A future that looked better than the past? Nope.
This was their lot. Their life. And let’s face it, that isn’t much of a life.
But one day everything changed.
A man named Moses came to Egypt claiming that a God who seemed no more than a distant memory had heard their cries and was going to rescue them from their oppression. He was going to bring them to a good and fertile land. He would be their God and they would be his people. The hope must have been so tangible you could smell it.
But things got worse before they got better.
First, the Pharaoh made them work harder with less materials. Then came the plagues. Oh, the plagues.
But then . . . freedom. Sweet, miraculous freedom.
The seas parted and the people went through. The enraged pursuers were no match for the power of this God who showed up at just the right time.
It almost makes you want to break out in song.
Their new life was officially beginning.
What do you do when you don’t have to make bricks? What is it like not having to worry about soldiers breaking into your house and killing your children?
But the more pressing question was “How do we eat and drink in the desert?”
They came to a mountain. And there, they encountered this God who rescued them from the whips and chains and brick pits of the Egyptians. It was there that this God bound himself to the people. He was now their God. And they were his.
As a wedding present, he gave this group of former slaves something they never had before: culture.
He gave them laws and ethics and art and traditions and rituals and buildings and a calendar. Think about what that does to a people! They have an identity! And it is all because of this God who for some inexplicable reason chose them.
That is good news! But people don’t always know what to do with good news, do they? Things got a little bumpy.
The people got scared.
They got confused.
But as we close this book, they are on the right track. They built God’s house and he lives there. When he is home, they stay put. When he leaves, they follow. And the final words of Exodus leave the reader with a great sense of hope and adventure.
Whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on each stage of their journey; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, before the eyes of all the house of Israel at each stage of their journey.